To tell you the truth, the only part of this book I found truly useful is an appendix listing a significant number of English text abbreviations. Potential readers should take note of the fact that author David Crystal is a professor of linguistics, and so the focus of the book is on the changes - be they positive or negative or both - that the exponential growth in text messaging may or may not be making to language. Don't let that "the gr8 db8" subtitle fool you - there's very little in the way of debate in these pages (Crystal declares text messaging to be a good thing at the end of Chapter 1). It's a pretty boring read, to tell you the truth. I certainly don't see very many people, particularly young individuals, reading this with fascination or great interest.
I try to stay ahead of the crowd when it comes to technology, but I have resisted text messaging - and cell phones in general - for some time now. Having spent four years working at a helpdesk, I pretty much hate telephones; many is the time I've cursed the name of Alexander Graham Bell over the years. I do have a cell phone now, but it's only because my parents foisted one on me; unfortunately, they didn't add text messaging to their plan, so I've never really been able to play around with that technology. Working on a university campus, though, I'm certainly aware that the text messages are flying all around me all day long, and I want and need to learn more about the subject. I'm also aware, albeit tangentially, that the quality of student writing seems to be headed in the wrong direction in recent years, and I've been inclined to agree with those who blame that decline in part on the rise of text messaging. I really wanted to see a substantive debate on that question, but I just don't think this book delivered on its promise in that regard.
Among his reasons for writing this book, David Crystal talks about the lack of any such book bringing together all of the disparate academic studies and papers on text messaging vis-à-vis language. He definitely mined the research fields pretty thoroughly. Unfortunately, the continuous references to all these studies makes for some pretty dry reading for the non-academic. To make matters worse, I can't buy in to some of Crystal's findings and conclusions. For one thing, a lot of these studies involved comparatively small groups. With little to no information on the full scope of possible variables on these studies, I can't help but find them suspect. Even if the data were rock solid and reflected the analysis of much larger study groups, I question some of the author's conclusions, especially since he seemingly made up his mind early on that text messaging's positives outweigh its negatives.
While Crystal does provide a history of text messaging, lays out its unique qualities, and offers his analysis of who uses it and why, I wouldn't really recommend this book to anyone who just wants to learn more about text messaging in general. This is, for the most part, a dry and somewhat academic read. The chapter on text messaging in languages other than English was nothing short of an ordeal. Even if you are familiar with some of the terms in these different languages, you might want to just skip that chapter altogether.
To be sure, there are some interesting facts for readers to glean from these pages, but my feeling is that those with an interest in linguistics may be the only readers who will truly appreciate the author's efforts. The average reader may well have to grit his teeth and persevere just to make it through to the end.